You’ll often hear leftwing Catholics state that the Church is “pro-union” and that Catholics therefore must support collective bargaining rights. In the most recent issue of the Catholic Telegraph of Cincinnati, Fr. Earl Fernandes uses the much-overlooked Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church to explain the much-overlooked — and oversimplified — actual teaching on unions and the “broadness” of the Catholic faith:

“Are you a faithful citizen?” was a headline on the front page of recent Catholic Telegraph. I received a letter from a lifelong, Catholic and truly decent man whose faith was deeply shaken by the issue, which contained an article about unions. After reading the article, he wondered whether there was room for him in the church, because he did not support all unions. He disagreed with union support of candidates and parties that supported abortion and the redefinition of marriage. He said he could not support unions because some union members had threatened him and his family members. He employs a few hundred people who are grateful for their homes, their jobs, and their ability to support their families. How could that be wrong? He thought if he must support unions, then he was in the wrong church; there was no room for him.

I had not read the article, but it troubled me deeply that a man who did so much good for his community, his parish and family had his faith shaken. Rather than argue over the article, I thought it better to clarify church social teaching, the nuances of which are not always captured in short articles. During the Year of Faith, there is an emphasis on Vatican II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church; however, an overlooked treasure is the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, which I gave to the man. Together we read through articles 305-307.

The first article (305) states that the magisterium recognizes the fundamental role played by unions, the right of association, and the historical role unions played to defend workers’ interests. In seeking to promote the common good, they are an indispensible element of social life. The second article (306) notes that “The church’s social doctrine teaches that relations of the world of work must be marked by cooperation: hatred and attempts to eliminate the other are completely unacceptable.” Threats and intimidation are never acceptable.

Near the conclusion of that article we read the following: “Being first of all instruments of solidarity and justice, unions may not misuse the tools of contention; because of what they are called to do, they must overcome the temptation of believing that all workers should be union-members, they must be capable of self-regulation and be able to evaluate the consequences that their decisions will have on the common good.”

His eyes opened, and he said, “Well, that wasn’t in The Catholic Telegraph.” I said, “No, but it is part of your church’s doctrine, part of your church’s faith.”

‘Anyone know what CT article is being referred to here?

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